A friend asked me recently about Hawaii’s Christmas traditions – particularly if there is any traditional Christmas baking.
As mentioned a time or two before, I love to bake. This year I went all out (ok, for my purposes) and baked four different Christmas cookies. Three of them traditional Austrian/German, one an old family favorite that an auntie of mine used to bake. Two mornings of baking fun. Then I picked up some fancy scalloped paper plates at Wailea’s cute card store Paper Garden and shared them with ‘too many’ friends. The ‘too many;’ is according to my kids. Don’t feel badly for them ~ we still have plenty left.
But back on topic, what are some of Hawaii’s Christmas traditions?
Did you know ~ Christmas became an official holiday in the Kingdom of Hawaii only in 1862. It started being celebrated in the islands with the advent of Christian missionaries in 1820. Prior to the adoption of Christmas, Hawaiians focused more on Makahiki – the traditional new years celebrations. In recent years Makahiki celebrations are making more of a comeback again.
When it comes to Christmas baking, I couldn’t find anything uniquely Hawaii. I even posted on one of the Maui facebook pages. It seems Hawaii’s Christmas baking traditions are like the Hawaii plate lunches. A mix of traditional foods from your home cultures. When you check the bakery section of grocery stores, you’ll find your typical American-style sugar cookies and gingerbreads and Japanese mochi. Even the local bakeries don’t have much Christmassy. The one thing a few people who answered my post agreed on is furikake chex mix. You may be familiar with chex mix (Maui’s Costco had it on sale yesterday for $4/bag). Essentially you put it in a pan, drizzle it with some sort of syrup (karo or even maple syrup), season with your favorite furikake spice mix and then bake til no longer sticky. Technically it’s baking I guess.
Furikake? This is a traditional Japanese spice mix made up of nori (sea weed), toasted sesame seeds and spices. It’s delicious! Nope, no photos of furikake chex mix here – while I like chex mix and furikake, I don’t like the combo with the sweet syrup.
Bing Cosby made the phrase Mele Kalikimaka famous with Hawaii-born Robert Alexander Anderson’s song by that title. Yes ~ you will often hear it sung in Hawaii. Including at last weekend’s Maui Pops Orchestra‘s Christmas concert! What does it mean? Merry Christmas, of course!
By the way, ‘hau’oli makahiki hou’ means ‘Happy New Years’ in Hawaiian. It’s pronounced ‘how-OH-lee mah-kah-hee-kee ho’
What’s for Christmas dinner? Well, similarly to Christmas baking, Hawaii’s Christmas traditions are more of a mix of other countries’ traditions. Sure you will find turkey, but also kalua pork (luau anyone?), poke, lomi lomi salmon…. family picnics at the beach, Santa arriving by outrigger canoe etc.
My favorite Christmas decorations are all the poinsettia planted outside at Christmas. Of course, it’s warm enough for them not to shrivel up and die. We have several that live and thrive in our flowerbed permanently. Upcountry some people have hedges of poinsettia. It’s absolutely beautiful this time of year.
Yes, some people decorate with lights – but given the price of electricity on Maui, you don’t see as many as you would back on the mainland. The hotels always decorate beautifully. A few years ago this giant gingerbread adirondack chair was on display at the Grand Wailea.